"Nothing Fats The Horse So Much As The King's Eye"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In this essay on the training of "free children," Plutarch offers much advice, from the choice of mate, to conception, to early formal education. He stresses the fact that the child must be allowed some holiday from study, just as the grown man allows himself a time for recreation. But a good education is even more valuable than health or beauty, for both of those may pass but a good education will remain. The selection of good teachers is therefore of utmost importance. They should have blameless lives, pure characters, and great experience. This statement about the fatness of the horse is a famous proverb, used by Xenophon and Aristotle.

We ought also to censure some fathers who, after entrusting their sons to tutors and preceptors, neither see nor hear how the teaching is done. This is a great mistake, for they ought after a few days to test the progress of their sons, and not to base their hopes on the behavior of a hireling; and the preceptors will take all the more pains with the boys, if they have from time to time to give an account of their progress. Hence the propriety of that remark of the groom, that nothing fats the horse so much as the king's eye.